Monday, November 24, 2008

Grubbin' With Fuzzy - Chili Showdown

At work, one of the supervisors organized a contest to see who could make the best Chili, with prizes for Overall Best Taste, Hottest, and just because, Best Name.

The Ground Rules:
  • Only employees may provide an entry; no one's allowed to go home and say, "Honey, we're having a contest tomorrow, could you make a batch of your chili for me?" Because some people would do just that. If you can't cook it, then don't bring it in.
  • Judging is done anonymously, by ballot cast by the other departments.
  • When someone says stop, or goes limp, even if he's just faking it, the Showdown is over.
  • If this is your first night at the Chili Showdown, you have to fight.
Whoops, I think I got a little Fight Club in there. Sorry.

Anyway, I had called the week before to get my Dad's Chili recipe so as to not bumble into this without a clue; the respect and admiration of my coworkers is at stake! There were a total of six contenders, each with a fairly unique chili. I've always been surprised that the same general idea of a stew with beef, beans, and tomatoes can vary so drastically across so many people.

One contender used too many tomatoes, and it turned out like a meaty pasta sauce with some chili powder. Another was OK, but a the consistency was a little too watery. Another entry was kinda mediocre; nothing bad in particular, but failed to make a lasting impression. What baffled me was that about half of the entries did not have any cumin in them, at least not that I could taste.

People, let's make this clear: If you don't have cumin in it. don't call it chili. Call it bean soup with beef, call it southwestern stew, whatever. But. It's. Not. Chili. Without. Cumin. That is all.

The top three were my chili, the second a spicy meaty entry, with chunks of chuck roast stewed in (named "Vegan's Nightmare"), the last decided defy the usual seasoning mix and added cinnamon and cocoa powder to the mix which made for kind of a sweet flavor. I didn't much care for it, but a lot of other people loved it, so what do I know?

Anyway, the organizer didn't want any one entrant to win in multiple categories (I got the rankings from him after wards) and even though he submitted a chili, he's too much of a class act to give himself a prize in his own contest. Because vegan's nightmare took the "Hottest" Category, I took best name, and the cinnamon/cocoa chili was his own, the prize went to the mediocre chili. I guess people don't like watery chili or tomato sauce with beans masquerading as chili.

So, without further ado, here's my chili, complete with winning name:

Dr. Studlington's Stewed Chili Soup and Health Elixir

Measurements are approximate; the best cooking does not submit itself to metrics!

2 cans (15oz each) of Red Kidney Beans (do not drain)
2 cans (15oz each) of Pinto Beans (do not drain)
1 can (15oz) of Black Beans (yeah, go ahead and drain/rinse these ones)
1 lg. can (29oz) tomato puree
1 lg. can (29oz) diced tomatoes
8 oz beer (you can use 12 oz, but a portion of it seems to [burp] disappear in my kitchen)
1 med-large onion, chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1.5 - 2 lbs ground beef
2 - 3 tbsp chili powder
1 - 2 tbsp cumin (srsly. Not chili without it!)

1) Sweat onion and green pepper with some oil in a 5qt pot until tender.
2) Brown the ground beef
3) Add tomatoes, beer, and beans. simmer for an hour
4) add seasonings, simmer for another hour
5) Om nom nom nom nom...

Final Notes: Dad's original recipe didn't call for beer, but another 29 oz of crushed tomatoes. Space limitations in my cookware caused me improvise (here's an Christmas gift idea for the folks: 6qt or greater capacity soup pot.)

This is even better when served over some Fritos and topped with Cheddar Cheese.

Dr. Studlington's Stewed Chili Soup and Health Elixir is the lugubrious cure for Melancholy, the Grippe, out of balance humors, nervousness, and hysteria. It also packs enough flavinoids and cytoroids to take the lethargy out of the most slothful person and give him enough energy to jitterbug all through the night. Why delay? Get yours today! Hurry, before they're all gone away!!

Dr. Studlington's Stewed Chili Soup and Health Elixir may not cure one or more of the afflictions listed above. Side effects may include rapid weight loss, rapid weight gain, unusual hair growth or loss, numbness in the extremities, cancer of the breast, prostate, or pancreas, growth of a tail, cancer of the tail, moodswings, sudden sexual attraction to the same gender, or a different gender of a different species, hallucination, or dry mouth. Do not take if you are nursing, pregnant, may become pregnant, might cause someone to become pregnant, often flip through baby name books, have any thought remotely involving babies, or have had at least one parent that had ever been pregnant. Use as directed.


Laedelas Greenleaf said...

Yet another prize-winning recipe from Fuzzy! I'll remember to thank you if someone ever compliments my cooking :-P

Fuzzy said...

Always glad to help! :-)

Tiffany said...

Tom is the exclusive maker of chili in our house. His tends to be less tomato-y, more beer-y, and we often use flank steak or sausage of some kind rather than ground beef (though we've been digging the ground bison lately). But yeah, about like that. Oh, and because his family had a friend from New Mexico where such things are the norm, we serve it over mashed potatoes.

I know, I thought it was weird at first too, but I have become a convert.